THUS SPOKE FRED: ON LEAVES OF ABSENCE (CHAPTER 3)

Friends in being, go into the wilderness and befriend the wild beasts, the gatherers of honey, the reapers of wild oats.

And in those times, and before, Fred had no disciples; no followers, no people. His youth had been spent on quests of no importance, squandered in search of nothingness, and he was not disappointed, for he found it. He had no fear of the unknown. He did not quake when looking emptiness in the eye. He did not tremble when answers turned to vapor. For that is what his scrutiny was empowered for; ether, vapor, nothingness. And he lost himself only to be brought back in another form; a searcher of the truth of man.

His search was to begin with men of valor, those with the strength of will, those who could pierce truth with a single glance. He gathered the strength of his mind and boldly strode forward to the Temple of Personnel. Beseeching the high priests with his quest they granted it; the quest of a combatant, a warrior, a plebe of the state. And it was thence that he traveled to distant lands; New Jersey. Donning a coat of armor, he walked among kings and dunces.

Fred found himself in the unexpected forest of personalities, mental capabilities and incapabilities, soundness and weakness of mind, spirit made of granite and spirit made of mucous, foundations of experience and foundations of parochialness, fearlessness and ever-existent fear, beings who were lost and beings who were found, those who ran and those who stood fast, those who could not think and those who thought for others.

The gifted spoke of authors, the hardy made labor the center of their lives, the leaders had followers; and they were pleased to obey. The laggard’s merits were vapors in the breeze. The perfect laggard was joined in stocks by his brothers.

It was here that Fred was urged to speak in tongues;   . . .   – – –   . . .  , a clear call for help. Speaking in such a manner was he capable of. Listening to this chatter and clatter was like hearing the hooves of cloven animals on the Appian. It troubled and clouded his mind. It screamed for human discussion. It begged for forgiveness. It was here that he failed his first disciples in discipline, the discipline where the souls of beings were hidden inside a clatter-trap. He could stand it no longer and fled with what senses remained.

And Fred thus screamed “The devil with you Morse.”

He found himself in hell. The hell of wasted minds. The hell of wasted talent. The hell made by those who resided there. Only those who resided in the minds of these beings knew what reality was or was not. The tortured lived here. They were called “Builders of Bridges” but what did they know of bridges?  They knew not of the bridge to the overman. They knew not of any bridges other than those built of metal and sweat.

And that they could do; sweat. Some could bathe, some could not, some could wash, some could not, some could brush, some could not; could and would were often disguised with the excuses of man. Clarity was not forthcoming, charity was.

And here, in this crypt of beings, Fred discovered time. A time to read. A time to see. A time to investigate. A time to waste. A time to align. A time to muddle. A time to befriend. A time to hate. A time to think. A time to follow. A time to test. A time to be tested. A time for clarity. A time for hallucination. A time to disappoint. A time to be disappointed. A time to form.

Bows, slings and arrows were thrown. Old tablets and new tablets were read. Exercise of the body was mandatory. Exercise of the mind was not. And so it came to pass that whilst men rolled ivory and dots, compared boards with kings and treys, exchanged money for malice, Fred revered in tablets. And he spoke sparsely but truthfully to his anti-disciples:

Borrow not from the money changers for they shall claim your soul in a fortnight. Borrow three pay five. Borrow seven pay ten. The numbers are against you. Rolling the bones of the dead is not the way of creators, it is the way of men. Thrill to the beat of hooves and you will live to regret you knew the length of an equine or made friends of lenders.”

“I know you men. I know your faults. I know your helplessness. But I do not forgive it. I will never forgive it. I will never understand it. O yes, I know my own faults and helplessness and I do forgive them. I revel in them. I love them. It is only yours I do so despise.

And sometimes in the long shadow of morning, as the trumpeter called the warriors to meet their day, Fred would call to his real disciples; the birds, the sun god, the mammalians, the fish, lastly the toads and vipers. “Good morning world” he would call to those who would listen. Warriors within the tent would smile; some patronizingly, others with wonder, and a few with true regard. But none could comprehend the beauty he felt in his heart for a new morning, a new beginning, a new chance, a clear head and heart.

Rushing off to see what new creations the blackener of sustenance had concocted Fred would not be disappointed. He would break his nightly fast with meal choices one, two or three; but it was always a creation. Thin slices of pork would be burnt or they may be as soft as doe skin, or both. The eggs of the fowl were solid like rock or soft like mucous, or both. Leavened bread could be black from fire or white from frost or green from mold, but not all three.

“Verily, I say unto you Brothers, there is always glorious sustenance awaiting you in fare one, fare two or fare three. Thus sayeth Fred to the hungry and belligerent.

Lo, as the moon progressed through its stages, and the stages repeated themselves eighteen plus four times, Fred progressed through stages with the Builders of Bridges. As would happen, often tablets for the Centurions would arrive. The origination of these tablets may be brothers, sisters, spouses, and, at times, tax collectors and money changers. Fred would sort the tablets by Centurion. After the noon repast Fred would call his newfound disciples to the front of his tent. Commanding presence and clear voice were his tools. One by one he would call out the Centurion’s name on the front of the tablet. The tablet would be collected by its owner and ciphered in private; followed by tears. Some joyous, some painful, some with that strange humor men find in ironicism and eroticism. On those evenings when painful tears were exposed, a Centurion would steal away in search of truth or vengeance. Let it be known that truth and vengeance are often bedfellows.

As the number of his disciples grew, within the Builders of Bridges, Fred found himself as the Centurion Captain’s chariot driver. Oh equines, how you could pull the Captain’s chariot. Oh Fred, how you could tame those beasts. Their number was sixty and only four of their hooves would touch the ground at any one time. They flew like eagles, corsairs to the Captain’s next destiny. But before the moon once again repeated its movements thrice, the Captain of the Centurions took Fred into his confidence. Thenceforth they would consult together in the same tent. The captain would make the pronouncements. Fred would scribe these on papyrus.

These were serious undertakings taken seriously. Yet anxiety hung in the air. The truth surrounded him but was invisible. And anxiety hung in the air. Yet the truth tapped him on the shoulder and disappeared. Too, anxiety hung in the air. Always the truth was there but avoided him. Finally the truth appeared but for a moment only.

It was a fall evening, one in which the motley clouds darken and join together to hide the moon behind their tapestry. A slight chill in the air always refreshes the spirit. Fred stopped by the cave of the vintner; as he always did. He enjoyed the conversations almost as much as he did the vintner’s creations. On this night Fred looked into the mirror and could not recognize the demon that he saw there. The demon was crushed. Fred wrapped his bloody hand in swaddling and never returned to the vintner. And he lost himself only to be brought back in another form; a searcher of the truth of man.

It was eight seasons, two Vinter, two Fruling, two Sommer, two Herbst, before Fred departed his disciples in Builders of Bridges.

“Brothers and Sisters, I will not return this way. Verily I say unto you, keep your wits when others point their arrows, gird your loins from the vipers, loose no stripes; for when the tiger looses his stripes he becomes a house cat.”

Thus, the final utterance of the temporary Centurion.

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About Waldo "Wally" Tomosky

I am proud of my work life (not the jobs, just the work).  Bait monger  Lawn mower  Paper boy  Windshield cleaner in a drive-in theater (if you don't know what a drive-in theater is there is no sense in you reading any farther)  Snack shack janitor in a drive in theater (ditto for drive-in theater)  Milling machine clean-up boy in a tool and die shop  Plastic injection press operator  Centurion in the US Army  Factory hand  Apprentice boy  Tool and die maker  Software user manual writer  Computer programmer  Ex-patriate par excellence  Engineering manager  Software test manager  Retiree  University administrator  System analyst  Retiree (2nd try)  Licensed amateur paleontologist  Retiree (3rd try)  Shovel bum (archaeology)  Retiree (4th try)  Delivery driver  Retiree (5th try)  Graduate student (skipped AA and BA due to the level of difficulty)  Retiree (finally got the drift of it) I have been writing for fourteen years and have fifteen books on Amazon/Kindle. Some horror, some twisted, some experimental, some essay and a few historical. I think that now I will really, really, really retire and just write. Lets see if I can do retirement correctly this time!
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